Economist and author, Uday Singh, whose debut Pokhran continues to top the charts for over a year now, is out with his new book about the not so obvious or innocuous things that drive us, limit us, and make us tick. A book for every leader, Inconspicuously Human captures insights that will enable all of us to be better leaders, and more self-aware and empathetic individuals.
Here’s an extract from the chapter : Is White Always Right?
In India, a country of over a billion people, with a diverse population in terms of hair color (ranging from black to light brown), and of eye color (shades of black, brown, and green), there is one product that almost every Indian is aware of—Fair & Lovely, produced by Hindustan Lever, an Indian subsidiary of Unilever Corporation. Aside from the fact that it is a huge testament to the marketing geniuses behind that product, Fair & Lovely has carved out a huge market selling “fairness” – another term for white skin in India – to the population. It promises to make the skin a couple of shades lighter through its use over just a few weeks. This may seem like a politically incorrect statement in the United States (and potentially in some European countries) but it does not cause any controversy in India. Everybody accepts it as part of life and mostly, girls with darker complexions continue to use it in the hope of making their skin tone lighter. Do these 1.1 billion people validate that white or fair is the desired color? Are we instinctively wired to regard white as good and black as bad or is there something else going on here?
Let us construct a high-level hypothesis. Could it be that most of the positions of power are held by white or fair people, and hence the rest of the people start associating white as the desirable color? Another way to approach this line of thought is to flip the color of skin for those living in Europe and Africa. Imagine an alternate universe, where Europeans have black skin color and Africans have a white skin color. Except for that one change, everything else stays the same, with the black European showing a strong tendency to organize and plan large projects (like bridges and tunnels), drive continuous innovation, develop phenomenal tools, arm themselves with innovative weapons (including cannons and the Gatling gun), liberty and justice for all, inclusive governance, whereas the white African population lags in innovation, in developing tools, and in its ability to organize and execute large projects. In such a world, would the world population instinctively embrace black skin color as inherently good and desirable?
Given that hypothesis, we can try to look for instances that will help strengthen or disprove it conclusively. We need to look no further than the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, across multiple chapters including Genesis, Samuel (23:21), Chronicles (11:23), one will notice that there is significant regard given to Egyptians, who were of a darker complexion compared to the Hebrews or Jews that were enslaved by them. One can 05
discern clear envy and a desire to bring down the Egyptians at any cost, assuming one were to regard the Bible as a historical record of the trials and tribulations of the Jewish people. That attitude reflected in the Bible is no different from terrorists trying to bring down Americans in the current time. The assumption is that Egyptians were the top dog of those times in many aspects and there were non-Egyptians around secretly wishing to see the downfall of the Egyptians, which is very likely a similar sentiment shared by current-day terrorists toward Americans. If the current rise of China and the Chinese people continues for the next few decades, and the Chinese population ends up capturing the top dog status in the world – on most fronts, including political stability, financial innovation, technological innovation, fashion, and the arts – then we might witness a shift in the entire world population, whereby Chinese features will become the most desired by all. We might be able to observe glimpses of this hypothesis playing itself out in a smaller setting in Singapore, where the majority of the ruling population is Han Chinese. This psychological shift in the thinking of the world population, if China continues its march to be the most admired nation in the world, will be an interesting one to observe for those interested in human behavior.
(Extracted with the permission of the author and the publisher The Alcove Publishers)